It’s not just another hockey season that is upon us. Not for the Montreal Canadiens, anyway.
As everybody in Quebec or Canada or anywhere else hockey is even remotely popular knows, this season marks the 100th anniversary of the sport’s most successful franchise.
This September is the first one in a long, long time that has featured realistic talk about the Canadiens being in the Stanley Cup mix.
That’s mostly because the Habs are a young team on the rise, but part of it also centers around the off-season additions made by GM Bob Gainey.
Here’s a quick look at what will be expected from the three most prominent new faces in Montreal this year.
Alex Tanguay, LW
All the talk about how hard it is to be a Francophone star on the Canadiens will evaporate if Tanguay plays up to his point-a-game potential.
As he’s already pointed out, nobody is expecting him to do all the heavy lifting; his skills will complement an already solid core of forwards.
Saku Koivu is probably be the happiest person to see Tanguay come on board because he played the majority of last season without ever finding a winger he completely gelled with.
Robert Lang, C
The only center Habs fans talked about all summer – and I mean all summer – was Mats Sundin. But when the big Swede wasn’t responsive to Gainey’s overtures, Montreal turned to Plan B.
No matter how productive Lang was with Alex Kovalev when they were together in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to imagine Kovalev starting the season with anybody other than Tomas Plekanec as his center.
Lang is slotted as a third-line pivot and is an upgrade over Bryan Smolinski. The 37-year-old Czech will be counted on for a 20-goal season.
Georges Laraque, LW
You’ll hear it over and over from Canadiens players when they talk about the acquisition of Laraque: “We all grew a couple inches as soon as he joined our team.”
The enforcer’s sole job will be to ensure every small, skilled player on Montreal gets the right amount of respect from foes…or else.
This article also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
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